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University gives 'last, best, final' proposal



Published: Thu, August 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The union will meet Monday to vote on the contract and possibly strike.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State University officials gave their "last, best and final" contract offer to the 400-member nonfaculty union.

The YSU Association of Classified Employees union negotiating team isn't pleased with the proposal. The union scheduled a meeting Monday to vote on the contract proposal and strike authorization if the deal is rejected.

Union President Christine Domhoff predicted ACE members would reject this offer.

James Wilkins, YSU's chief negotiator on this contract, said the proposal is "as good as we can make it as far as the bottom line cost to the university."

YSU officials presented the offer Wednesday to the union. The union plans to strike at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday if a contract isn't ratified at Monday's meeting.

YSU officials would be willing to make adjustments to the "last, best and final" offer but only if it wouldn't cost the university any more money than the proposed package's cost, Wilkins said.

YSU officials are still calculating the cost of the proposed three-year ACE contract and expect to have a final figure today.

Offer specifics

The university's offer Monday called for wage increases of 2 percent, 4 percent and 3 percent.

The union is seeking annual raises of 3.75 percent, 4 percent and 4.25 percent.

"Frankly, if you look around, no one's getting 4 percent [pay raises] these days," Wilkins said. "It's not happening. We think this [contract offer] is extremely generous."

The last offer also includes a provision that ACE members with family coverage would contribute 1.5 percent of their salaries toward health care premiums in the second and third years of the contract. For those with single coverage, that contribution would be 0.75 percent in the last two years of the deal.

Union concerns

The union doesn't want to pay anything toward health care premiums.

Wilkins pointed out that ACE members also receive money through salary steps, which average about 4 percent a year, and longevity pay of 0.5 percent per year, in addition to the raises.

Domhoff said most ACE members are longtime YSU employees, and only a handful receive step and longevity pay. Longevity pay ends after 20 years at YSU, she said. YSU officials say 110 ACE members will get salary step pay, and 320 of them will get longevity pay.

The YSU final offer also calls for ACE members to pay $100 a month if a member's spouse has access to health care at his or her place of employment and declines to take it.

The offer doesn't include the $1,000 bonus the union wanted if student enrollment increases. But it does have a plan to have YSU buy two years toward ACE members' retirement. That would benefit those close to retirement and would permit the university to replace them with lower-salaried workers, Wilkins said.

Wilkins said YSU made its final offer Wednesday with the hope that ACE would consider it before Monday, when the current contract expires.

ACE leaders say nonunion employees -- including the top YSU administrators -- are eating up a disproportionate amount of the university's payroll.

The university recently gave nonunion employees a 3 percent raise but required them to pay 10 percent of their health care premiums.

Intent to strike

The ACE negotiating team distributed an e-mail Wednesday to its members telling them the university "began to regressively bargain," with ACE and with the faculty union.

The e-mail recommends ACE members remove all personal items from their work areas, review their personnel files and request the removal of any inappropriate materials or outdated disciplinary action, and stop the direct deposit of their paychecks.

The 380-member faculty union filed a notice of intent to strike effective Aug. 23 if a new contract isn't settled by then. The union meets with YSU officials Monday.

The union plans to meet at 1:30 p.m. Monday, after YSU President David C. Sweet gives his state of the university speech, said Stan Guzell, the faculty union's chief negotiator and a YSU management professor.

"If we have an offer, then there's a vote," he said. "If we don't approve a contract, then there's a strike vote."

Thomas Maraffa, chief negotiator for the faculty union contract and special assistant to the president, said YSU officials "remain committed to negotiating a fair agreement with the faculty."

skolnick@vindy.com




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